Peru is the third largest South American country, bordered on the west by the South Pacific Ocean, and sharing borders with Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. Peru is the source of the Amazon, the river that carries more water than any other. The Amazon begins at Iquitos at the juncture of Rio Ucayali and Rio Marañón. Peru shares Lago Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, with Bolivia.
The estimated population of Peru in summer, 2007 was 28,64,757, the fifth largest in South America. The population is 45% Amerindian, 37% mestizo (a mix of Amerindian and white), and 15% white. The official languages are Spanish and Quechua, the language of the Incan empire. Eighty-one percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
The largest city in Peru is the capital, Lima with 8,180,000 in the greater metropolitan area. Arequipa and Truijillo are second and third largest with populations of 837,300 and 725,200 respectively.
With less than 3% of the land available for agriculture, Peru looks to its natural resources—such as ore, petroleum, timber, natural gas, and fish—to serve its economy. Textiles and agricultural products, such as coffee and asparagus, also play a role,
Peru was home to the Incan empire, one of the major civilizations in South and Central America before the Spanish conquests. The Incan empire was centered at Cuzco, Peru, and was ruled by an emperor, and is known today for the city of Machu Picchu. Francisco Pizarro led the Spanish conquest in 1532, befriending and then killing the emperor Atahualpa.
Peruvian independence movement was led by José de San Martin and Simón Bolivar. The independence of Peru from Spain was declared in 1821 and won in 1824. The day of the declaration, 28 July 1821, is celebrated in Peru as the national Independence Day. After a turbulent century — which included a long dictatorship — a president was elected in 1945. But the following years included military takeovers and coups.
Shining Path, a Maoist guerilla organization, entered the scene in 1980, attempting to overthrown the Peruvian government. Nearly 70,000 died in clashes between this rebel group, another group — Tupac Amaru, and the government in the two decades following. If actress Cameron Diaz had read a bit of Peruvian history, she wouldn’t have shown up in Peru in June 2007 with a fashion handbag emblazoned with a Maoist quotation.
Democracy returned, and by September of 1992, Shining Path was well on its way to becoming history. But scandals and other problems continued to plague the presidency. In 2007, the president was Alan Garcia, who also held office in 1985–1990.